The Office of Financial Aid administers, coordinates, and recommends a variety of programs of financial aid to enable students who lack adequate financial resources to attend USM. The U.S. Department of Education offers eligible students low interest student loans. Some employers offer assistance in the form of tuition reimbursement, flexible scheduling, or paid educational sabbaticals. Scholarship assistance may also be available from organizations, clubs, or religious groups of which the student or his or her family is a member. The University is also approved by the Veterans Administration for payment of veteran's benefits. During the most recent academic year, nearly $85 million in financial aid was available to USM students.
Financial Aid offices are located in Gorham in Bailey Hall, in Payson Smith Hall in Portland, and at Lewiston-Auburn College. For more detailed information about the application process, the funds available and the priority filing dates and deadlines, visit us on the Web at http://usm.maine.edu/fin.
Eligibility for Aid
To receive financial assistance, a student must be admitted into a degree program at the University and, in most instances, must be enrolled for at least six credit hours for a semester. Aid can be granted only to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. Students must also be registered with the Selective Service if you are a male, at least 18 years old, and born after December 31, 1959. If you believe you are not required to be registered, please call the Selective Service Office for information regarding exemption.
It is important to remember that financial aid is intended to supplement a student's resources. A basic principle of financial aid programs is that the student and his or her family are expected to contribute, when able, from income and assets to meet college costs.
The deciding factor in the establishment of a student's eligibility for most financial aid programs is that of documented financial "need"; that is, when an applicant has been determined to have insufficient family resources to meet the cost of attending the University of Southern Maine, she or he is eligible for assistance. Since the federal government provides most of the funds the University allocates to its students, family resources are assessed in accordance with a formula required by the U.S. Department of Education.
Aid applicants must also meet standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress in their chosen course of study. These standards are set by the University in accordance with federal financial aid regulations and are in addition to the requirements established by the dean or director of an academic program. A full explanation of these standards may be found at the following Web site:http://usm.maine.edu/fin.
A student must not owe a refund on a federal grant or be in default on a federal educational loan. Students who are in default or owe a repayment are not eligible for assistance.
No student should fail to apply for admission because she or he cannot pay the full cost of an education. The Office of Financial Aid administers a significant and versatile program. When a student's financial resources are insufficient to meet educational expenses, then grants, loans or employment can usually be made available. If funds are not available from the University, the Office of Financial Aid helps students explore other potential sources of aid.
Satisfactory Academic Progress for Continued Financial Aid Eligibility
Every school participating in the federal student financial aid programs must monitor its financial aid recipients to ensure that they are meeting satisfactory progress standards. Federal regulations mandate that the school's satisfactory progress policy must include both a qualitative measure (such as the use of cumulative grade point average) and a quantitative measure (such as a maximum time frame for completion) of the student's progress. While the qualitative measure is determined and monitored by the academic standards of the institution, the quantitative measure administered by the Financial Aid office is used to determine the number of credit hours completed when compared to those attempted. To quantify academic progress, the school is required to set a maximum time frame in which a student is expected to finish a program. For undergraduate and graduate programs, the maximum time frame may not exceed 150 percent of the published length of the program, as measured in credits attempted.
To ensure that the student is making sufficient progress throughout the course of study, the school must divide the program into equal evaluation periods called increments. Once the school defines the length of each increment, the school must compare the number of hours the student attempted with the number of hours the student successfully completed. This calculation enables the school to determine whether the student is progressing at a rate that will allow him or her to finish the program within the maximum time frame. As is the case in USM's progress policy, a school is permitted to apply a more lenient completion standard in the student's first academic year and then gradually increase the completion standard for each subsequent academic semester. USM's satisfactory progress policy explains how withdrawals, grades of incomplete, courses that are repeated, noncredit remedial coursework, and other attempted coursework that is not completed affect the satisfactory progress determination. Procedures have been established that enable a student to appeal a determination that finds him or her not to be making satisfactory progress. The quantitative and qualitative standards used to judge satisfactory progress must be cumulative and include all periods of the student's enrollment. Even periods in which the student did not receive financial aid funds must be counted. If the student does not meet the school's standards for satisfactory academic progress, he or she is not allowed to receive further funds from federal student aid programs. For specific details regarding satisfactory academic progress for financial aid, please refer to the USM financial aid Web site at http://usm.maine.edu/fin.
Additional Requirements for Graduate and Doctoral Students
To be eligible for federal financial aid (including deferment of student loans) a matriculated graduate or Ph.D. student must meet one of the following conditions:
- is enrolled in at least 6 academic graduate credits
- has obtained a certificate of adequate academic progress from the chair of the committee, indicating that the student is continuing to actively pursue studies leading to the master's or doctoral degree, and is registered for GRS 602 or GRS 701. (Note: This applies to students taking anything less than six academic credits.)
GRS 602 is a 1-credit course that permits master's degree candidates registered for less than six credits to retain eligibility for financial aid, University-funded fellowships, scholarships, graduate assistantships, student health insurance, loan deferment, visa compliance, and access to University services, including USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. This course option is primarily intended for students who have completed coursework for the master's degree, but have not completed their thesis or capstone. Enrollment in GRS 602 requires that students have certification of adequate academic progress by their program faculty advisor or program chair and approval from the Office of Graduate Studies.
GRS 701 is a 1-credit course that permits doctoral degree candidates registered for less than six credits to retain eligibility for financial aid, University-funded fellowships, scholarships, graduate assistantships, student health insurance, loan deferment, visa compliance, and access to University services, including USM computers, libraries, and recreational facilities. Prerequisites include passing qualifying exams, receiving certification of adequate academic progress from the program chair and dissertation/capstone chair, and obtaining approval from the Office of Graduate Studies.
To apply for financial assistance from the University of Southern Maine, you should file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or your Renewal FAFSA on the Web at http://www.fafsa.gov.
Students are encouraged to apply for assistance as early as possible. To ensure a fair distribution of funds, a priority filing date is established. To meet USM's deadline, applicants must ensure that their FAFSA data is received at the institution by March 1. Students should submit the FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.gov by February 15 to meet the USM March 1 deadline.
Applications are accepted after the priority filing dates, although the type and amount of aid offered may be reduced subject to funding limitations. Applicants who file after the priority filing date will probably receive delayed notification and may not have the funds available in time to pay semester bills.
Additional financial records required to verify information reported on the FAFSA may be requested under separate cover.
How Financial Aid is Allocated
The University begins reviewing student aid applications in early spring. Once a student is accepted, all necessary financial aid application materials are received, and the University is told how much federal aid it will have for students, a notice of eligibility is sent. If a student receives outside scholarship funds, the amount of aid from the University may have to be reduced.
The amount a student receives is determined by subtracting the student's resources from a budget computed by the Office of Financial Aid. This budget is based on typical living and educational costs for students and may be adjusted if unusual non-discretionary expenses exist.
Students are offered aid in a package which may consist of grant and/or loan and/or work-study. Undergraduate students with prior bachelor's degrees are not eligible to receive grants.
Even after a student is allocated aid, the amount may be adjusted if the student's financial situation changes. Students and parents must promptly report any of the following to the Office of Financial Aid: a change in the number of credit hours attempted; changes in family circumstances; the receipt of financial aid from sources other than the Office of Financial Aid.
Types of Aid Available
For All Students
- Federal Work Study This is a program funded by the University and the federal government. A student's financial need governs the amount that can be earned.
- Federal Perkins Loans Funded by the federal government, the University, and former borrowers repaying loans, this program lends money to needy students. No repayment is required until after the student ceases his or her education or drops to below 6 credit hours of enrollment. Once repayment begins, the student is charged 5% simple interest on the amount borrowed. While the monthly repayment amount varies with the amount borrowed, a minimum of $40 must be repaid each month.
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans This program provides access to borrowing for both students who do and do not qualify for need-based assistance. The student is responsible for the interest as it accrues.
- Alternative Loans These are private, credit-based loans which provide long-term financing options for qualified students or families. Additional information about these programs may be obtained from the Student Financial Aid Office or online at http://usm.maine.edu/fin.
- North American Indian Programs Tuition, mandatory fees, and on-campus room and/or board will be waived for qualified and eligible North American Indians residing in Maine. Eligibility is extended to 1) the person whose name is included on the current census of either the Passamaquoddy or Penobscot Tribes; and 2) the person who has resided in Maine for at least one year and whose name, or the name of at least one of their grandparents, was included on the census of a North American Tribe or held a band number of the Maliseet or Micmac Tribes with direct blood lineage. For additional information, contact the Wabanaki Center at (207) 581-1417. Visit the Office's Web site at http://www.naps.umaine.edu.
- Veterans Educational Benefits Students eligible for educational assistance from the Veterans Administration are encouraged to contact the Veterans Affairs Office thirty days before the start of each semester. The Veterans Affairs Office is located in the Registrar's Office.
For Undergraduate Students
- Federal Pell Grants This is a federally funded program to help needy students. In 2013-2014 grants will vary between $574 and $5645 per academic year.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants This is a federally funded program to help needy students. Grants range from $100 to $4,000.
- University and Miscellaneous Scholarships These are funded by the University and private donors. Awards have ranged from $100 to $4,000 and are given on the basis of financial need.
- Federal Direct Subsidized Loans This program, administered by the federal government, allows students to secure low-cost loans. Eligibility for subsidized Direct Loans is based on demonstrated financial need.
- Federal Nursing Student Loans Funded by the federal government, the University, and loans repaid by former borrowers, money is lent to needy nursing students. Repayment terms are similar to those of the Perkins Loan. Loans range from $400 to $2,500.
- Federal Direct PLUS Loans for Parents This credit-based program, sponsored by the federal government, allows parents to secure relatively low-cost loans. Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) application request forms are available from the Student Financial Aid Office or can be printed from http://usm.maine.edu/fin, under the section entitled Direct PLUS Loans.
- Merit Scholarships Merit awards are based on academic achievement and promise, special talents, potential to make unique contributions to the University community, and USM's commitment to expanding the pluralistic character of its student body. Further information may be obtained from the Admissions Office.
For Graduate Students
- Graduate Assistantships These are available in most programs. Graduate assistantships serve three purposes: to provide financial support for students, to enhance students' professional and scholarly development, and to support faculty scholarship and teaching. The assistant is required to pursue graduate studies (at least 6 hours of credit per semester). In compensation, the assistants are paid a yearly stipend. Some assistantships are accompanied by a limited tuition waiver. Assistantships are awarded by the Office of Graduate Studies on the recommendation of the individual graduate programs. Interested students should first contact their graduate program director or the Office of Graduate Studies at 780-4877.
- Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students This program, sponsored by the federal government, allows graduate and law students to secure relatively low-cost, credit-based loans. Graduate and law students are able to borrow up to their cost of attendance minus other estimated and actual financial assistance under the Direct PLUS Loan program. Graduate and law students must file a FAFSA and must have their annual loan maximum eligibility under the Direct Loan program determined before they apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. Direct PLUS Loan request forms for graduate and law students are available at the Student Financial Aid Office or at http://usm.maine.edu/fin.
- University Tuition Waivers A limited number of tuition waivers are granted to outstanding entering graduate students. Students are nominated by faculty admission committees. Applications for admission to graduate study must be completed and received by January 15 to qualify for these waivers
For additional information
Contact the Office of Student Financial Aid, University of Southern Maine, Bailey Hall, College Avenue, Gorham, Maine 04038 or telephone (207) 780-5250, or online at http://usm.maine.edu/fin.
Offers of financial aid are conditional upon receipt of funds from all funding sources. The Office of Student Financial Aid reserves the right to revise offers of financial aid at any time during the year based on availability of funds and/or changes in regulations and/or procedures mandated by University, state, or federal authorities.